For many people, cooking is like meditation. Professional chefs and home cooks alike view cooking as a way to relax and unwind. Spending time in the kitchen, working with your hands and focusing all your energy on a methodical recipe can be therapeutic. Maybe you crack open a bottle of wine and dive in for some solo time, or maybe you're cooking amongst friends or family. Whatever your style, cooking can be the perfect way to unwind.
We take relaxation seriously at the The Huffington Post. Unplugging and recharging isn't only something we value -- it's something we think is imperative for success and happiness. Predictably, we at HuffPost Taste are big fans of the cooking-as-relaxation school, and practice as often as we can. We have our own comfort recipes -- bucatini all'Amatriciana, roast chicken, buttermilk ranch dressing and mac & cheese -- but we're curious about other people's favorites. We're really curious about what the pros make at home to relax.
Restaurant chefs may cook elaborate meals all day and all night long at work, but at home they're often cooking the same, simple meals that the rest of us are making. (Although most likely they're a lot better!) Some chefs, like Marcus Samuelsson, have been kind enough to publish books on the food they make at home -- sharing with us an intimate look into their home lives and the comfort they take in their own family recipes. (Samuelsson's "Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook At Home" comes out in October, 2014.)
If you're as curious as we are about what professional chefs are cooking at home to relax, here are eight go-to comfort meals from some of the country's best chefs:
, the famed French chef with restaurants from New York to London to Singapore, makes Salade Meridionale at home when he wants to relax. It's a vegetable salad with eggplant, piquillo peppers, zucchini and cucumbers to name a few, with shrimp, fresh pesto and a lemony vinaigrette. Get the Salad Meridionale recipe from New York Magazine
Alex "Skud" Bayley/Flickr
Didier Elena of Chef's Club
by FOOD & WINE makes Riviera Roasted tomatoes.
"Tomatoes can be used as a fruit, vegetable or juice. I'm from Monaco and grew up on them as a simple, flavorful dish to eat at any temperature. I suggest them fresh and from a garden."
Elena slices his tomatoes and places them cut side up on a baking sheet and drizzles them with olive oil. He sprinkles garlic, sugar, salt, pepper parsley and bread crumbs on the slices and roasts them at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. He then seasons the tomatoes with arugula, black olives, shaved parmesan, lemon zest, salt, pepper and some juice from the tomatoes. Simple and perfect.
Jonah Miller, chef and owner of Basque-inspired, New York restaurant Huertas
"PASTA! Comforting to eat and to cook. If I have some cockles or manila clams at the restaurant, I'll steal a few to make Vongole. I've always got some respectable anchovies and pecorino at home, so an anchovy sauce or cacio e pepe is always a distinct possibility." Get a Linguine Con Vongole recipe from The Wimpy Vegetarian via Food52 and a Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe recipe from John Kernick
Brandon Dimcheff via Getty Images
Chef Mads Refslund of farm-to-table restaurant ACME
starts his day by rehydrating dried fruit in hot water, and uses this to make steel cut oatmeal, adds fresh seasonal fruit, butter and cold milk. Get some oatmeal recipes worth waking up for from HuffPost Taste.
Kam & Co. via Getty Images
Marcus Samuelsson of The Red Rooster
makes a no-cook, preserved lemon cocktail on his days off.
"Preserved Lemons. A staple in Moroccan flavor profiles, lemons get packed in salt, and develop a rich, interesting (and versatile) flavor. You’ll find them in tagines, but you can also add a bit of the lemon rind to pesto for a deeper flavor, or chop it up in a pasta dish or grain salad...But to keep on relaxing, try adding a bit of the brine to a cocktail for a surprising addition of salt." Get the Preserved lemon cocktail recipe from marcussamuelsson.com.
Chef Frank McMahon of the Brasserie Gigi
in Charleston, SC likes making Indian-style chicken curry with Madras curry powder, served over basmati rice.
"It's one of those slow, relaxing dishes with the ingredients added bit by bit. I pair it with a nice Gewurtztraminer from Alsace and of course, sip some while cooking."Get a Cheap Creamy Chicken Curry recipe from Food52
Brad Farmerie, executive chef of New York restaurants like Public
and Saxon + Parole
and Napa restaurant The Thomas
makes simple meals while he's trying to feed his family (he's a father of two.)
"I...am most relaxed doing simple rustic dishes and large presentations, or oven-to-table dishes, where everyone just gets to dive in and help themselves." These often include meals like shakshuka and whole split chicken grilled with salsa verde and vegetables. Get a shakshuka recipe from The New York Times.
Chef Michael Franey from Nitehawk Cinema
likes to cook bucatini with cherry tomatoes, red onions, roasted garlic, basil, fresh mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil.
"The best way for me to relax while cooking on my days off is to do it with my girlfriend. I will pick her up from work and we will stop by the greenmarket in Union Square or just the grocery store near home, see what we like and go from there. Usually its some sort of very simple pasta with vegetables or protein, like bucatini with cherry tomatoes. The most important thing is that we are cooking everything together. We will open a bottle of wine, talk about our days, what's coming up, anything that we may have missed over the course of the week, making it less about the food and more about connecting through cooking." Get a Bucatini with pesto and cherry tomatoes recipe from Food52.
Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.